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EDL 'Exploiting Concerns About Asian Grooming Gangs To Fuel Islamophobia' Report Says

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The English Defence League (EDL) is exploiting concerns surrounding sex-grooming gangs to fuel its anti-Islam agenda, a university report has said, warning that perceived 'Islamisation' could lead to terrorist attacks similar to the one by Anders Brevik in Norway.

The far-right group is using cases such as the nine Asian men jailed last year for grooming girls in Rochdale to build support, turning the issue into one of Islam versus the West, King's College London found.

edl

An EDL protest in Bristol

The group is also building networks across Europe, with EDL leader Tommy Robinson considered a "rock star" by activists, according to the university's International Centre for the Study of Radicalisation.

Tommy Robinson, who also goes by the name of Stephen Lennon, was jailed in January for 10 months after admitting using someone else's passport to get in the the USA.

Alexander Meleagrou-Hitchens, one of the report's authors, said: "There's a danger that the UK will export this kind of vicious, far-right activism to the rest of the continent."

The EDL and its partners have worsened community tensions and further promoted ideas that helped inspire Norwegian mass killer Anders Breivik, the report said.

tommy robinson

Tommy Robinson is currently in jail after illegally using someone else's passport

It came as security minister James Brokenshire warned that far-right movements like the English Defence League have the potential to inspire individuals to break off and join more extreme groups.

Delivering a speech at a conference on far-right extremism, Mr Brokenshire hit out at groups such as the EDL for "inflaming tensions and spreading hate-filled prejudice within communities".

He warned that the EDL and others have the potential to "stoke radicalisation" and could ultimately cross the line into an area that concerns counter-terrorism strategy.

"There are a growing number of examples which suggest extremist and terrorist groups can potentially destabilise each other - the presence of one causing a spiralling effect on the other - and offering an enemy against which to define themselves.

"There are also views that groups such as defence leagues can provide 'gateway ideologies' through which individuals may migrate to more extreme organisations.

He said while the far right threat is not as "widespread or systematic" as al Qaida-inspired terrorism, the movement appeals to people who share the same vulnerabilities.

"It feeds off the same sense of alienation and questions around identity. And it has the same ambition to reshape the world in an impossible way. The threat is real, and our response must be effective."

Mr Brokenshire said in June 2011 the government broadened its counter-terrorism strategy - known as Contest - to cover all forms of terrorism, including the far right.

He said the government is currently funding 112 projects in areas where radicalisation is considered high risk.

Its intervention programme - known as Channel - aims to prevent vulnerable people from being drawn into terrorism. Around 10% of the individuals enrolled in the programme have been motivated by far-right extremism.

james brokenshire

security minister James Brokenshire

The Kings College report documented a phenonomen pushed by the EDL called 'rape jihad.'

"This 'rape jihad', as it has become known, is a significant concern for the EDL," said the report.

"Interest has risen since revelations in the British media about the existence of sex-grooming gangs made up of Muslim men of south-Asian origin."

The EDL demonstrated in Rochdale in June last year to try to pressure police to refer specifically to gang members as "Muslim" so any alleged link between the religion and the crime could be inferred, the report said.

The far-right group is sharing these tactics with partners in Denmark, Norway, Sweden and other countries, the university department found.

It has had an extensive online presence for some time but it is now making efforts to move to the physical world, according to the report.

"Although the leading members and organisations rarely, if ever, directly call for violence in response to Islamisation, they are unable to control how their fellow travellers will decide to act upon the information they provide.

"The attacks in Norway were the first example of an individual inspired to pursue terrorism in direct response to perceived Islamisation, and they are unlikely to be the last."

The report, A Neo-Nationalist Network: The English Defence League and Europe's counter-jihad movement, will be launched at an all-day conference on Wednesday.